A Judicial Body Blow to the ACA

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Health

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Opponents of the Affordable Care Act may have stopped trying to overturn the entire law in court, but they have not stopped challenging pieces of it — and they have found an ally in Fort Worth, Texas: U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor. In 2018, O’Connor held that the entire ACA was unconstitutional — a ruling eventually overturned by the Supreme Court. Now the judge has found that part of the law’s requirement for insurers to cover preventive care without copays violates a federal religious freedom law.

In a boost for the health law, though, North Carolina has become the 40th state to expand the Medicaid program to lower-income people who were previously ineligible. Even though the federal government will pay 90% of the cost of expansion, a broad swath of states — mostly in the South — have resisted widening eligibility for the program.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

Thursday’s decision out of Texas affects health plans nationwide and is expected to disrupt the health insurance market, which for years has provided preventive care without cost sharing under the ACA. Even if the decision survives a likely appeal, insurers could continue offering the popular, generally not-so-costly benefits, but they would no longer be required to do so.

The decision, which found that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force cannot mandate coverage requirements, hinges on religious freedom objections to plans covering PrEP, the HIV medication, alongside other preventive care.

Speaking of the ACA, this week North Carolina became the latest state to expand Medicaid coverage under the health law, which will render an estimated 600,000 residents newly eligible for the program. The development comes amid reports about hospitals struggling to cover uncompensated care, particularly in the 10 states that have resisted expanding Medicaid.

Pushback against Medicaid expansion has contributed over the years to a yawning coverage divide between politically “blue” and “red” states, with liberal-leaning states pushing to cover more …

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